For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Will Matthews, (212) 549-2582 or 2666;

ACLU Report Hails Michigan As Model For Reducing Prison Populations

Lowering Incarceration Rates Makes Fiscal Sense Without Jeopardizing Public Safety

WASHINGTON - Michigan's
successful efforts to reduce its statewide prison population by more
than eight percent during the past two years while at the same time
improving public safety provides a model for other states seeking
smarter, more affordable criminal justice policies, according to a
report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report, "Michigan Breaks the
Political Logjam: A New Model for Reducing Prison Populations," details
how Michigan's initiatives come in the face of the ongoing and
unprecedented growth of prison populations across the country, a
reality that has contributed to crippling budget deficits for many

"Michigan has undertaken what may be
the most effective changes to reduce incarceration of any of our
nation's states to date," said Elizabeth Alexander, Director of the
ACLU National Prison Project and author of the report. "Michigan
provides a compelling example of how we can save money, reduce our
prison populations and make our communities safer by abandoning our
rush to incarcerate."

According to the report, a key
component of Michigan's successful reduction of its statewide prisoner
population has been the adoption of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry
Initiative (MPRI), which links internal prison system efforts aimed at
preparing prisoners for re-entry into general society with locally
developed re-entry support programs. Under the MPRI, prisoners' risks
of re-offending, needs and strengths are assessed upon entry into the
Department of Corrections. Prison staff also utilize a computer
software program to develop a transition accountability plan that
serves to guide interventions and services that will facilitate the
successful return of prisoners to the community while reducing the
potential risk to public safety. About 60 days prior to a prisoner's
release date, a more specific re-entry plan focused on housing,
employment and services for addiction and mental illness is developed.

The MPRI program, as well as the
commitment of corrections officials to providing prisoners with focused
re-entry preparation, has increased the percentage of prisoners who are
paroled by their estimated date of release to more than 70 percent. The
percentage of prisoners serving time past their estimated date of
release has fallen in the past two years alone from 31 percent to 25

"Michigan's experience is important
because it demonstrates that common sense can in fact trump demagoguery
and that smart-on-crime policies can actually triumph," said Alexander.

According to the report, Michigan's
prison population last month had dropped to 47,634, down from a high of
51,554 in March 2007. That allowed Michigan, faced with a budget gap of
$1.4 billion, to announce this year the shuttering of eight prison
facilities, with a projected budget savings of $120 million. In the
Michigan Department of Corrections budget for fiscal year 2009-2010,
direct expenditures for operating prison facilities were reduced by
approximately $192 million while the budget for various initiatives to
further reduce the prison population was increased by about $59 million.

"Michigan's example is just another
sign that mass incarceration may finally be imploding, collapsing under
its own weight as the global financial crisis renders it
unsustainable," said Alexander. "Michigan inspires hope as a concrete
example of the change in incarceration policies that the United States
so desperately needs."

The report, however, criticizes
Michigan's failure to adequately provide necessary mental and medical
health care to its prisoners. 

A copy of the report, "Michigan
Breaks the Political Logjam: A New Model for Reducing Prison
Populations" is available online at:

Additional information about the ACLU National Prison Project is available online at:



This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Share This Article

More in: